Task force report would overhaul LAUSD’s special education
Craig Clough | March 9, 2015
New recommendations from a statewide task force would have huge ramifications for LA Unified and its roughly 82,000 special education students.
The Statewide Task Force on Special Education’s report, “One System: Reforming Education to Serve all Students,” calls for a number of blockbuster moves, including a much greater integration of special education students into general education settings, major changes to teacher training and other overhauls.
While quite a few things would still need to occur before the report’s recommendations could be implemented, the changes would represent a seismic shift for LA Unified. In particular, it calls for the closing of most schools and sites dedicated to special education, and LA Unified has 15 of them.
“It does call for [closing special ed sites at LAUSD.] Not all students with a particular disability need to be on a separate site,” Vicki Barber, co-executive director of the task force, told LA School Report. “You just need to have that option, and so when you have got that secluded site, that makes it that much more difficult to provide some integration with students that are not disabled. Having your special ed on general ed sites, it provides that opportunity.”
Doing away with LAUSD’s special ed sites is “not a new recommendation,” Barber added, as it has been a goal that came out of a class action lawsuit which resulted in the Chanda Smith Consent Decree.
The task force report also recommends increasing the availability statewide to early education for children with special ed needs, creating a “common trunk” of training for special education teachers and general education teachers and to “equalize the state’s support for special education across California by overhauling the system of special education financing.”
The cost of implementing the changes is not estimated in the report, but in the long run it says they would save the state “billions.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has already thrown his support behind the report.
“Effectively educating students with disabilities is our collective responsibility, ” Torlakson said in a statement. “The bold ideas and recommendations in this report contribute to California’s expanded educational mission for high-quality teaching and learning in every classroom,”
Sharyn Howell, head of LA Unified’s special education department, did not respond to a request for comment.
To fully implement the task force’s report would require movement on multiple levels of state government on different areas of the recommendations, Barber explained, including approval by the State Board of Education, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the state Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown.
“We’ve talked with legislative contacts and the legislative analysts office. We are hoping that the governor will embrace some of the recommendations and that we would see some movement coming forward on the financial issues,” Barber said.